Coming so close to winning the Stanley Cup in the spring of 2011 left Tanner Glass with a consistent burning desire since to actually secure his first NHL championship. It also affirmed his belief that Alain Vigneault has what it takes as a head coach to guide a team to hockey's promised land.
So when it came time to decide which team to sign with as an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, it made perfect sense for Glass to choose the Rangers, the 2014 Eastern Conference champions who are coached by Vigneault, the man who led Glass and the Vancouver Canucks to within one victory of the Stanley Cup three years ago.
"Passionately hungry to win a Cup, that's a great way to put it," offered Glass in an exclusive interview with BlueshirtsUnited.com over the holiday weekend. "My dreams--or nightmares, if you will--constantly drift to that spring and the feelings that I had before Game Six and Game Seven where I'd wake up thinking I could be holding the Stanley Cup later that night, and then it didn't come true. So the reason I chose New York is that I like the team and think it can win, and I am confident AV is a coach that can lead a team all the way."
There were other reasons, of course, for Glass to decide that the Rangers were the best fit for him. The former Pittsburgh Penguin forward has a familiarity with the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference; and as a former captain at Dartmouth College Glass is very comfortable with the east coast. Plus Glass and his wife have friends in New York City, so there is expected to be a smooth transition when they move their family later this summer.
However in the end, Glass' decision was based on hockey reasons, with winning a championship under a coach he believes in and is very familiar with at the top of his list.
"(Winning a championship) is the biggest thing out there for me right now," stated Glass, who at the age of 30 will be playing for his fifth NHL team when he dons the Blueshirt this fall. "We came so close with Vancouver a few years ago, and it's hard not to want that and more every spring. I went to Winnipeg and didn't make the playoffs, then came up short with Pittsburgh. Now I am fortunate enough to come to a great organization in New York that has as good a chance to win a Stanley Cup as anyone."
Glass played a solid third/fourth line role for Vigneault in Vancouver during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, playing in 67 and 73 games respectively those two seasons. Vigneault stated the other day that Glass is an even better player than when he last coached him when the Canucks dropped the 2011 Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins.
"I am very comfortable coming here, knowing the coaching staff and knowing what they expect of me," said Glass who has 54 points and 458 penalty minutes in 377 career games. "AV being in New York, plus the team they have put together here, really made the Rangers more and more attractive to me."
A gritty, hard-nosed winger, Glass will fit right in on the Blueshirts fourth line, a unit that played a big role in the team's success this past season, but which lost key contributors Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett, and Daniel Carcillo in the past two weeks. Glass is responsible in his own end, aggressive on the forecheck, solid on the penalty kill, and more than willing to drop the gloves if the need arises.
Many Rangers fans probably remember Glass' throwdown with Arron Asham in the 2013 home opener at Madison Square Garden. Glass remembers it, too.
"That was such a big stage, Madison Square Garden is such a cool venue to play in, and that memory really sticks out," explained Glass whose 13 points and 90 penalty minutes last year with the Penguins were both second-most in his career. "Now to be a Ranger, and to play for those fans, is something I'm really looking forward to."
Perhaps the one area Glass believes he can make the biggest contribution to his new team is on the penalty kill, a skill he has worked on and isn now very confident in his abilities. With Boyle having departed, there is a major void to be filled on the Rangers penalty kill in 2014-15.
"(Boyle) is a great penalty killer, great shot blocker, such a big guy who can get into lanes, but I think I am a comparable shot-blocker to him," shared Glass. "Coming into the NHL penalty killing was a big learning curve for me from what we did in college. Since I went to Winnipeg, and then in Pittsburgh, and took on a big penalty killing role, I think that's the biggest part of my game that has really come along. I am really comfortable with the thinking aspects of penalty killing now, and I hope to be a big part of the penalty kill (in New York)."
As for his new team, Glass feels like he knows the Rangers well, pointing to the club's tenacity, resiliency, ability to work in five-man units, and how it uses overall team speed to its advantage. He also noted that having Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes is a major advantage for the Rangers over other teams.
"I can think of quite a few opportunities I had to score where he shut the door on me," laughed Glass. "I am much happier having him behind me now for sure."
Glass and his wife Emily plan to spend the rest of the summer at home in Vancouver with their newborn, saving the house or apartment hunting in New York for late August or early September. But his enthusiasm for starting his Rangers career is bubbling up at the surface already.
"I have played in some big hockey markets, but I don't think there is a stage quite like Madison Square Garden and New York City," stated Glass. "I am going to have the chance to play for an Original Six team, and I think it's really cool. I'm a hockey fan when it comes down to it, so to play at Madison Square Garden on one of the biggest stages in pro sports is just super, super cool."